Today, we celebrate a milestone. Today, Wandering Spice turns two years old!
Two years ago, I wrote about chocolate cake and becoming Australian. It was my first post, I had only recently arrived in Australia, and without paying much mind, I was combining East and West to fuse my roots. I wanted to write and to share and to learn from other writers. I could never have predicted that with time and support, my project would become my connection to home – my new home in Australia, my old homes in the US and Europe, and perhaps most importantly, my historical home in the Middle East.
It’s true that technically I am the one at the helm of this little ship, but without you – your feedback, your encouragement, your curiosity about Middle Eastern cuisine – this journey would only have been a fraction of the learning experience and fun that it has been. I am so grateful.
Please do continue to tell me what you love and what you wish to learn. Ask me on Facebook, in the comments here, or write me an e-mail. It is always a joy to hear from you and wonderful to know how I can help, as so many talented writers and photographers have helped me along the way.
I see no better way to celebrate than with something we Arabs do so well: sweets. This dish, called layali lubnan, meaning “Lebanese nights” in Arabic, is a soft orange blossom, rose and vanilla-flavored semolina pudding topped with freshly whipped cream, crunchy pistachios and tart dried apricots. Just before serving, it is drizzled generously with atter, the floral sugar syrup we know and love from namoura and baklawa.
My auntie Youmna introduced me to this dessert when I was young, and though it has been at least 12 years since I have had it with her, I still imagine myself in her living room, tasting it for the first time. She and my mother both use Cool Whip as the topping, so if it is available to you, by all means use that. In the absence of it here, I whipped some fresh cream with a pinch of sugar instead. Adorned with classically Middle Eastern nuts and fruit, then slathered in syrup, yes, this does feel like a celebration.
Thank you again for visiting my space, sharing the Arab love, and teaching me so much in return. Cheers to two more.
- 4 cups low fat or whole milk (not skim)
- Heaping 1/2 cup coarse semolina
- 1/4 cup raw sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
- 1/4 tsp rosewater
- 500ml whipping cream (light whipping cream also works)
- 2 tsp raw sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup dried apricots, sliced
- 1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
- 1/2 tsp rosewater
- Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until it's warm to the touch. Stir in the semolina and sugar, and continue stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches a gentle boil.
- Continue stirring the milk and semolina for 5-6 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon well, and resembles a thin porridge (it will thicken as it cools). Spread it in a pan of your choice (a 10" pyrex or circular serving dish are both great). Let stand to reach room temperature, or place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together until thick and fluffy. Spread the cream over the top of the semolina, making about a 3/4-inch coating. Reserve remaining cream for something decadent. Garnish with chopped pistachios and apricots. If serving immediately, let stand at room temperature while you make the syrup. If serving later, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it starts to boil, stir in the lemon juice, and continue boiling 8-10 minutes until it has become syrupy enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the orange blossom and rose waters.
- Serve the pudding at room temperature with a generous drizzle of syrup on top.
Audio pairing: Toro Y Moi, “Say That”